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Georgia's president vetoes foreign agent law

May 18, 2024

President Salome Zourabichvili had earlier told DW that she would reject the contentious legislation as a "symbol." The veto, however, can be overridden by another vote in parliament.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili in an interview with the Associated Press on May 16, 2024
The Georgian president serves as head of state and commander-in-chief of the Defense Forces of GeorgiaImage: Shakh Aivazov/AP/picture alliance

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili on Saturday vetoed a "foreign influence" law which has sparked mass protests in the Caucasus country. The bill had been earlier passed by the Georgian Parliament on May 14.  

Zourabichvili: Foreign agent law 'contradicts our constitution'

"Today I set a veto... on the law, which is Russian in its essence, and which contradicts our constitution," Zourabichvili said in a televised address. Opponents of the bill liken the legislation to laws in Russia which also crack down on entities the Kremlin deems "foreign agents," such as the late Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation.  

Zourabichvili had earlier told DW in an exclusive interview that she would veto the bill, as she believes the legislation is hurting Georgia's aspirations to join the EU.

Law 'taking Georgia away from its European path'

President of the European Council Charles Michel wrote on X that Zourabichvili's veto "offers a moment for further reflection," while adding that the bill in its current form "is not in line with EU values and path."   

The veto can be overriden by another vote in Parliament. The bill is backed by Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze and his Georgian Dream party, which have majority control in the Parliament. 

The legislation obliges nonprofits and media organizations to register as "agents of foreign influence" if over 20% of their financing comes from abroad. Under the legislation, the organizations would also be closely watched by the Georgian Ministry of Justice. 

If the organizations fail to register, they could face severe financial penalties.  

Georgia rocked by protests over 'foreign agent' bill

Legislation sparks mass demos from civil society, yet PM remains defiant  

The bill has drawn backlash from civil society groups, who believe it would be impossible to survive without foreign funding.

The legislation has sparked mass demonstrations against it for over a month in Georgia, with protesters also concerned that Georgia's EU hopes would be quashed by the bill. Aspiring EU member countries such as Georgia need to have a "vibrant civil society" in order to join the bloc, according to the European Commission. 

PM Kobakhidze, however, believes the bill will increase transparency and combat foreign influence in Georgian society. He has earlier said that the US and EU have not put forward "counterarguments" against the bill. 

Kobakhidze has also said that he still backs Georgian EU membership amid the controversy over the bill.  

wd/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)